Thrush, also known as candida, is a fungal infection most commonly caused by the Candida albicans yeast.
The growth of candida in the vagina is normally kept under control by the presence of ‘helpful’ bacteria and the immune system. However, harmless bacteria in the vagina may be destroyed as a result of changes in the levels of female hormones (this may occur during pregnancy, before a menstrual period or when taking the oral contraceptive pill), by taking antibiotics or using a spermicide.
Diabetics and people on steroids or whose immune system is suppressed are more prone to developing thrush. Stress may trigger an episode of the condition. Thrush is less common in men but it can occur, causing irritation and redness particularly on the head of the penis. Thrush is often asymptomatic in men, so both partners should be treated.
Symptoms of vaginal thrush include:
- Swelling of the vagina and vulva.
- White vaginal discharge.
It is often painful too, especially during intercourse and may be associated with frequency of passing water and burning or pain on passing water. It may therefore be confused with cystitis (bladder infection). Thrush, however, is usually associated with itching and cystitis is not.
Many women are affected by vaginal thrush at some point in their lives and in some women it may reoccur regularly. Fortunately many products are available from your pharmacy to treat the symptoms of thrush. One of the most commonly used drug is clotrimazole, which is available as creams, applicators and pessaries. You can also buy a single dose capsule of ﬂuconazole from the pharmacist.
There are some measures you can take to prevent vaginal thrush:
- Wear cotton underwear and loose ﬁtting clothes if possible.
- Avoid latex condoms, spermicidal creams and lubricants if they cause irritation.
- Avoid the use of perfumed soaps, vaginal deodorants or douches which may irritate the
- Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics.
- Consider applying live yoghurt or taking probiotic preparations which may encourage
‘friendly’ bacteria in the vagina.
- Consider treating your partner at the same time as the infection may affect him without
symptoms and can be causing reinfection.